Southern Georgian Bay Affordable Housing Toolkit:

Town Sustainability, Community Wealth Strategies, and Social Finance Tools

The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay connects people, shares knowledge, and fosters collaborative action to accelerate progress on challenging issues, as well as exciting opportunities. One of our four priority areas is Affordable Housing, which currently is the greatest challenge affecting the sustainability of our municipalities.

Our Social Finance & Housing Project grew out of an original study group focused on pandemic recovery, the lack of awareness of community wealth building strategies and social finance tools in our rural communities, and included a study area of participating communities along the shore from Collingwood to Owen Sound. The focus shifted to housing as the local housing crisis was exacerbated by in-migration from neighbouring cities bringing gentrification and investment in multiple properties to our traditionally low-income areas. This trend has magnified the problems experienced by much of Canada as a result of the financialization of housing and is having a huge impact on affordable housing.

Our Project has developed within the context of three UN Habitat in Towns: Collingwood World Summits looking at the sustainability of small towns, and the application of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to our communities. In addition, we participated in the year-long Social Innovation Canada/CMHC Financialization of Housing Innovation Lab, working with communities across Canada to mobilize community wealth toward an affordability for all agenda. 

The annual Summits focus on SDG #11 – Sustainable Communities – and highlight the rapidly growing pressures our communities are experiencing, the cross-sectoral progress being made in some jurisdictions, and the urgent need to develop our own regional roadmap for addressing affordable housing, climate change, transportation, and the protection of our natural and cultural assets to ensure economic and social wellbeing of our towns for generations.

Get the full background and overview of this Toolkit here.


Over the first year of the pandemic, it became clear that access to capital for addressing social issues was becoming increasingly difficult. A social finance and investment strategy was a topic of exploration in our community discussion series Mapping Our Road to Recovery . In 2021, the Institute began studying the tools and strategies being used in other jurisdictions to help address affordable housing, climate action, and food systems.

In 2022, we formed the Social Finance & Housing Group with the goal of learning more about the emerging area of Community Wealth strategies and Social Finance tools that are being used to accelerate progress on affordable housing. Residents and leaders from business, government, nonprofit, and philanthropic sectors across the region are involved. And, by participating on the annual Summit Steering Committee, we have contributed a slate of speakers for the Summits, which have included local experts, as well as others we have met through our study group sessions.

The Institute has hosted important community discussions over the last three years so that everyone can learn more about the housing system; the financialization of the sector, which has turned housing into a commodity – see Social Innovation Canada’s  Financialization of Housing Report; and solutions that are taking place across the country.

This important activity has fostered a rich systems discussion on how development takes place in our communities, how we could be doing things differently, and how we all must contribute to achieving affordable housing for all.

Building Community Wealth

The “Community Wealth” movement, which is gaining momentum around the globe as a concept, is a set of financial strategies and principles that focus on the sustainability of local communities Community Wealth Building

These integrated economic strategies address the social, environmental, and economic wellbeing of people in the community. They are used to address housing and employment issues, and provide opportunities to grow both financial and social capital. This movement creates the conditions for people, businesses, service organizations, and local governments to influence local investment, local ownership of land and property, and local spending by anchor institutions. It can also help to grow the engagement of the local workforce toward a thriving local economy that nurtures locally-owned small enterprises. 

What if every dollar we spend, lend or invest contributes to making our local communities better? What if our businesses, governments, and large institutions were intentionally involved?

We’re sharing what we’ve learned in the Southern Georgian Bay Affordable Housing Toolkit. It illustrates how affordable housing is key to the continued viability of our towns, and how we can achieve the housing we need with some innovative approaches. The Toolkit is available on the Institute’s website where the components can be downloaded. The complexity of the housing issue demands collective learning, discussion, and strategic action. We all need to become affordable housing advocates and contribute to achieving success.

Toolkit Components

Call to Action

  1. Read this toolkit and let’s learn and act together– every one of our municipalities has tools available to plan for adequate affordable housing to ensure that residents are housed, according to their means, and that businesses avoid labour shortages, as a result of the lack of affordable housing. The effective use of community wealth strategies and social finance tools can ensure our sustainability. Municipalities hold the greatest potential to build community wealth through their planning, purchasing and lending power.
  2. Collaborate and build the partnerships and entities required to achieve success – the sustainability of our communities relies on collaboration and cross-sectoral knowledge and financial resource-sharing to address an issue this complex.
  3. Advocate for dedicated affordable housing groups in each municipality to create a local report based on need, utilizing data– the economic growth, development and wellbeing of our communities depends on affordable housing as a key pillar now and into the future.
  4. Advocate for the creation of a cross-sectoral, collaborative tableto share knowledge, best practices, and leverage additional resources to act together and build the range and scale of housing stock required.
  5. Support the development of a better data planning environment that can determine the number of units our region requires for our labour force– our region is service industries dominated and thousands of people make between $15 and $25 per hour. Affordable housing for these residents means $1,000 – $1,500 per month in housing costs – focus on purpose-built rental and holistic and multi-use developments.
  6. Shift our municipal planning view towards sustainabilityand ensure municipal, regional, county, and provincial planning align with SDG 11.
  7. Agree that we can all be doing MORE and build the affordable housing movement to ensure the ongoing viability of our towns.

Social Finance & Housing Tool Kit Founding Design Team

We wish to acknowledge that many others from our community contributed time and thought to this project.

Carol Merton

Councillor, Owen Sound

Jack Vanderkooy

Board Chair, Habitat for Humanity SGB; Vice-Chair Collingwood Affordable Housing Task Force

Geoffrey Shea

Councillor, West Grey

Shirley Keaveney

Deputy Mayor, Meaford

Marg Scheben-Edey

Housing Advocate, Member of Regional and Town of Collingwood Affordable Housing Task Forces

Rosalyn Morrison

Chair, The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay

Marilyn Struthers

Volunteer Facilitator, The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay

Stuart Reid

Executive Director, Community Foundation Grey Bruce

Yvonne Hamlin

Councillor, Collingwood

Gillian Fairley

General Manager, Community Futures South Georgian Bay

Peggy McIntosh

Vice President, Meaford Chamber of Commerce; Retired Realtor.

June Porter

Board Member, The Institute of Southern Georgian Bay

Liz Buckton

MCIP, RPP, Senior Policy Planner, County of Grey

Jennifer Armstrong

Community Volunteer